Suggestions for home media server/configuration?

I have a general question that I’m hoping people here can help with.

We are a Mac and PC household: 1 Mac, 1 PC, both laptops. The Mac has a Drobo hooked up to it from time to time, mostly to use as a repository for home movies and other homemade media. We also have a PS3, an HDTV, and a spare PC laptop lying around that we are not currently using. We have a bunch of media, mostly music purchased with iTunes, that we would like to serve to both computers. However, the Drobo on which most of the media is available is formatted HFS+ and the Mac is not always plugged into it. Some of the DRM’d media is also on the PC laptop that is currently being used.

In addition, we would like to be able to serve movies via Netflix, tv via Hulu, etc. etc., without having to plug a laptop in each time we want to do all of that stuff. We would ideally like all of our media consolidated onto one server, which could make use of the Drobo.

So basically, I am looking for suggestions for a home media server that can serve media to Macs and PCs, and to an HDTV. I’ve looked at PlayOn, but would prefer a solution that uses a Mac instead of a PC, just because most of the media is already on the HFS±formatted Drobo.

Does anyone have any suggestions, and does anyone know of a way of doing this with a Mac mini? That would be the ideal hardware solution in my mind, except that PlayOn doesn’t work with Macs (yet). Suggestions that involve reusing existing hardware get a gold star. :slight_smile: Keep in mind that I’m not a hardcore hacker or networking guru.

Thanks in advance!

Personally I’ve become a big fan of XBMC. It handles pretty much everything I need and could actually do a lot more. Easy to install via a Live CD, or install it for OSX directly. Pretty easy to configure and most thing’s are straightforward in the setup. Works with MediaCenter remotes etc… Can be used as a UPNP server, etc…


Thanks, scotta.

I will look into XBMC. Does anyone have any experience running PlayOn on a Mac via Parallels? Would a modern, bottom-of-the-line Mac mini be able to do that?

XBMC is way better than PlayOn. I have a Mac Mini (2009) and it handles anything I throw at it. There are Media servers for the Mac that will serve a PS3 or XBox.



Thanks, Phillip. I’m looking into Boxee as well. PlayBack looks really cool too. I think we’re going with the cheapest Mac mini, it looks plenty powerful.

So I ended up buying the ultra low-budge mini (2GB of RAM, 160GB HD) and it’s working GREAT with Boxee and an attached Drobo v2. It’s hardly even breaking a sweat serving up HD video. Boxee is slick and it “just works”.

Thanks again to phillip and scotta.

boxee is great for streaming content but xbmc or plex gives you much greater library control for your video files on your drobo plus many skin choices to choose from to make it your own

Thanks oquinn. My understanding is that Boxee is a fork of XBMC?

correct boxee is a fork of XBMC and they still share code and plex is also a fork of XBMC. You are using a drobo so i assume that you have a collection of movies/tvshows that you need your media center (mac mini) to manage. Boxee has limited library control, if it pulls the wrong info you have no way to change it or download the correct movie cover art. The library in XBMC is real easy to manage and the scrappers that XBMC pulls almost everything correctly and if it does not, it is very east to edit the movie to get the right info.

I use a mac mini and a drobo with XBMC but i would recommend installing multiple media centers and use them for at least a week or so to really get the feel for them to see what really works best for your setup. youtube is also your friend search for macmini setups with boxee, xbmc, plex to see what others are doing and pull from their ideas and exp.